ART REVIEW: "Dustin Yellin: $50,000, Two Parachutes, and a Crab's Suit"-Richard Heller Gallery

Recently, my editor and I journeyed to one of my favorite Los Angeles-area galleries: Richard Heller Gallery, located in the Santa Monica Bergamot Station complex.  (I have reviewed previous Richard Heller Gallery shows here, here, and here.)    While I can always count on the artists on display at Richard Heller Gallery, I was not prepared for the sheer wonder and ingenuity of Dustin Yellin: $50,000, Two Parachutes, and a Crab's Suit.

When I first saw the works in this show, I immediately thought of Damien Hirst's creatures encased in blocks of resin, yet Dustin Yellin's instead works consist of collages encased in blue-green glass, built up layer by intricate layer to create a cohesive composition.  The sheets of glass are then fused together, creating scenes with the illusion of depth, suspended forever in glass.  The majority of works are vertically oriented; the layers of either paint or paper cut-outs are built up to look like the form of a standing human being.  It is only when you look closer that you see the incredible amount of detail that goes into each layer, and when you walk to the side of the piece, the layers disappear.   Each work is quite the undertaking for Yellin and his assistants: the smaller pieces weigh 600 pounds, while the larger pieces clock in at 3,000.
Dustin Yellin, Psychogeography 43. Courtesy of Richard Heller Gallery.

In the first room, the highlight is Sensorium, a horizontal piece dating from 2013 that plays with the layers, creating two distinct vignette depending on which side you look.  At first glance, it looks like a simple aquarium.  Look closer. The side facing front is an energetic, surrealist sea-scape, made up of paper cut-outs of human figures, trees, rocks, grass, and painted plumes of smoke and bubbles, while the backside uses the same materials to create an eerie underwater grotto.  I could have spent at least an hour dissecting every detail of Sensorium.
Dustin Yellin, Sensorium. Courtesy of Richard Heller Gallery.

In the second room is a series of life-size pieces titled Psychogeography, which draws its name from French situationist artists of the 1950s.  Each work contains a suspended humanoid standing figure, each created from paint, collage, or combination of the two.    Psychogeography 43 immediately catches the eye, with its standing figure seeming to press its hands against the glass in a gesture of entrapment, creating a decidedly eerie effect.  Psychogeography 8 rather amusingly looks as if the human figure inside the glass has spontaneously exploded where it stands, with collaged residue layered throughout the glass.  Lastly, Psychogeography 38 is made up of tiny daubs of pale blue paints, creating an evanescent, ghostly figure.
Dustin Yellin, Psychogeography 8.  Courtesy of Richard Heller Gallery.

The Psychogeography series succeeds because its so presciently addresses feelings of being trapped and suspended in a moment, represented by the glass encasing the layered figures.  Whether the figure is full-bodied, partially there, or merely a wisp of painted forms, each state of humanity is preserved in glass foreverseemingly more frozen than in a painting or conventional sculpturenever allowing for the potential for change or freedom.  It's like looking back in your mind over a past moment, noting all the calamities and regrets that you wish you could change.  But the past is trapped in the past, and is unalterable, so all you can do is hover over your memory and dissect the layers from the outside.

$50,000, Two Parachutes, and a Crab's Suit is an utterly bizarre and unexpected exhibition of contemporary art, and manages to combine a sense of wonder with the macabre.  It is far and away the most inventive exhibit I have seen at Richard Heller Gallery, and is an example of what truly fascinating and creative contemporary art can look like at its peak.  I recommend it for all of my Los Angeles-area readers!

The exhibit runs until March 29th.


  1. I LOVED this exhibit. It was very tough to walk away because I wanted to examine every angle and view of every piece. Like the figures in the glass, I was absolutely suspended in the moment, though, unlike the figures in the glass, I was not trapped, but rather entranced. Great show and nice review!


Post a Comment